Transitioning from Community to Society

Mountainside Campus Middle School

Learning about exploration.

Early adolescence is a time of dynamic personal growth and change. Our Montessori Middle School program helps students to navigate these channels of change and to transition strongly to their high school program of choice. Built on the foundations of the Montessori elementary, it is the culminating experience for our Montessori students.

Students are expected to bring a high level of independence and self-direction, a comfort with collaborative work, and a love of learning; to treat each other with respect; and to understand that each person has different strengths and challenges. Manipulative materials are few, since adolescents prefer more adult learning techniques: reading, discussion, and hands-on application.

The mixed-age class, with longer blocks of time for subject areas, projects, and personal reflection, fosters students to follow areas of personal interest and apply their unique abilities to a group experience. Large group work within the same curriculum or project area supports their need and ability to belong and collaborate constructively, with each person expected to contribute their best efforts. While they are given letter grades to support their transition to high school, the requirement and knowledge that they have done their best is the most important marker of success.

Adolescents want to use what they are learning, to DO and apply, to make a difference in the world. Daily community meetings run by the students, along with meaningful work, study, and age-appropriate responsibilities, promote the adolescent’s positive sense of belonging and the impact of personal choice on social functioning. Projects such as completing internships in the community and running a campus store are real world opportunities for lessons in science, math, language arts and practical living skills. Camping trips to our New Mexico site thoroughly immerse students in community living, learning and doing. Opportunities to work side-by-side with adults to address real community needs – whether environmental maintenance, volunteer work on and off site, or performance in the Phoenix Light Parade – validate the adolescent’s skills and contributions as they are connecting constructively with the world outside the classroom.